Quarterbacks Reacting Under the Bright Spotlight

InTheBleachers.netSenior Analyst IJune 2, 2008

Last week I talked about some quarterbacks that can use the 2008 college football season to take the next step from good to great. In this segment I am going to look at six quarterbacks that are going to be under the spotlight this year. Whether it be because their team has high expectations, or that they slid a little under the radar last year and won’t take anyone by surprise this season.

With the preseason magazines set to come out this month and next, you will be hard pressed to find a top 5 without the Georgia Bulldogs in it. Their junior quarterback, Matthew Stafford, is one of the main reasons why the Bulldogs are ranked so high. If he progresses this year like he did between his freshman and sophomore year, Stafford has a chance to get some Heisman consideration. In his freshman year, Stafford threw for over 1700 yards with 7 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, then improved last year throwing for 2500 yards with 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. In all the important categories his stats improved; interceptions went down, touchdowns went up, and completion percentage went up (52% to 55%). Now he has the weight of the world on his shoulders with the Bulldogs being National Title favorites. He will be under the microscope each week, and the Bulldogs have one of the toughest schedules in the nation.

Since Pete Carrol has come to USC, they have been national title contenders pretty much every season. This year is no different, even with the Trojans losing their starting quarterback from last year. Some thought that the 2008 season would be the start of the Mustain train in Southern California, but the experience of Mark Sanchez was too much for Mitch Mustain and Sanchez will be the starting quarterback this fall. Sanchez did well filling in when Booty was hurt last season, throwing for almost 700 yards with 7 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. It is a good thing he got his feet wet because the Trojans don’t start out the year with any warm up games. Game one has them traveling to play at Virginia, and game two is when the Ohio State Buckeyes come to Southern California. Luckily for Sanchez, he has a 5-star studded backfield and wide receiver core to support him, but that might put a little more pressure on him because if USC struggles, all fingers are going to be pointed squarely at him.

Last season in the Big 12 North, Kansas and Missouri took the division by storm. They even set up an end of the year match up between the two teams for the Big 12 North title. Chase Daniel and Todd Reesing were main reasons why their teams faired so well during the season. Both quarterbacks are undersized as far as the protypical quarterback is concerned, but their heart and determination make up for it. Reesing’s stats last year had him throwing for 3400 yards with 33 touchdowns and only 7 interceptions. One big knock against Reesing and the Jayhawks was that they did not play either Texas or Oklahoma in 2007. Kansas’ only loss was against Missouri and in the Orange Bowl, Reesing played superb against a tough Virginia Tech defense. With Oklahoma and Texas on the schedule this year, as well as a trip to South Florida, teams will be well prepared for Reesing this year, so it will be interesting to see if his play will continue to soar.

Daniel's stats in 2007 are almost mind boggling. He threw for 4300 yards, 33 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, and a whopping 68% completion percentage. Chase is on a lot of short lists for the Heisman Trophy award this year, which he finished in the top four in 2007. There is no Oklahoma on the schedule for the Tigers this year, but a game at Texas and starting the season against Illinois should be tough tasks for the Tigers. The Tigers lost Tony Temple to graduation as well as their talented TE Martin Rucker. Stopping Daniel will be task No.1 for all defensive coordinators, but the question is, can it be done?

Not a household name, but Rutgers’ senior quarterback Mike Teel will be entering his third year as starting quarterback of the Scarlet Knights. In those few seasons, Rutgers went from the laughing stock of college football, to a top team in the Big East Conference. So I am sure you are asking, why the heck is Mike Teel on this list? Plain and simple, the Scarlet Knights no longer have Ray Rice to carry the load for them. Mike Teel will be asked to do a lot more with the football than in years past. He has to make the difficult throws and protect the football if Rutgers want to challenge for the Big East title. In his two years as starter, his touchdown, passing yards, and completion percentage has grown, but his interceptions has stayed the same (13 each year). He has to get that number under 10 and get that completion percentage over 60%. Their first game should be a fun test for Teel, with the Fresno State Bulldogs coming to New Jersey. All eyes will be on Teel and the Knights to see if they can derail this year’s version of the Hawaii Warriors.

Quick, can you name me the quarterback who played the best in the ACC in 2007? I bet many of you think it is Matt Ryan, but you are wrong. CJ Spiller and James Davis get all of the press clippings, but it is Cullen Harper who should be getting some attention. Last season Harper threw for almost 3000 yards with 27 touchdowns, 6 interceptions, and a completion percentage at 65%. Harper has the luxury of having two great backs behind him to take some of the pressure off of the passing game, but at the same time it is up to him, to keep up the good play so that the running game works so effectively. Clemson is a favorite to win the ACC and opens up at home against Alabama. Teams might load up in the box and force Harper to air it out, which leaves the team’s hopes of a BCS bowl bid, square in his hands. I think this is a guy you could possibly see at the Heisman Ceremony come December.